This is a close race and both sides will need to increase voter intensity to win.
For those who enjoy an underdog victory, Super Tuesday certainly didn’t disappoint. Consider some of the headlines over the past month (that haven’t aged well) – “The Biden campaign has enormous momentum – in the wrong direction,” “Reeling Biden campaign scrambles to soothe nervous voters,” “Joe Biden’s campaign has a problem, and it begins with the candidate,” and “Voter to Biden: what the hell is going on with your campaign.” For the most part, Joe Biden was framed as a disappointing establishment candidate in a year when establishment candidates couldn’t win – until now.
Super Tuesday gave a boost to Biden and may be the end of the road for others. A few brief takeaways below:
Super Tuesday was Biden’s Night: Without question, Super Tuesday was a major delegate and momentum victory for Biden, highlighted by the fact that he won states he didn’t campaign in, spend money in, or focus on. At this point, Joe Biden won nine of the Super Tuesday states and will gather delegates from several others. He had the election night he needed and Super Tuesday has proven that South Carolina wasn’t an anomaly and that Joe Biden is now the candidate to beat. Last night’s election also solidified an awkward moment for all the pundits who emphatically declared a month ago that Joe Biden’s candidacy was over.
Sanders Remains a Competitive Candidate: While Sanders didn’t have the night he had hoped for on Super Tuesday, this remains a two-person race at the top. He secured a good number of delegates, especially with a win in California. His supporters thought last night’s election could have closed the door on any competition the rest of the way, which he fell far short of doing. The last Democratic primary is 94 days away and lots of delegates remain on the table. Bernie Sanders is leading in several big-delegate states on the horizon, including Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania. This race isn’t over, but Sanders needs to perform well in the weeks ahead and slow the growing momentum of the Biden campaign.
Money Isn’t Everything: Mike Bloomberg’s strategy to focus on the Super Tuesday states and drop hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising simply didn’t work. He won the primary for American Samoa and didn’t really compete for any other primary last night. It’s difficult to see what advantage he would have going forward and Joe Biden could get another boost by Mike Bloomberg leaving the race, which we must assume he is considering doing after last night’s performance.
A Vote for Joe or a Vote Against Bernie: The data will likely show in the coming days that a portion of the moderate arm of the Democratic party didn’t suddenly adopt Joe Biden’s message, but rather are using Biden as the candidate to stop Bernie Sanders. Certainly, the sudden shift in support and endorsements would indicate that there is more to this than a new love for Joe Biden and it seems as though this highlights the very real divide between moderate and progressive Democrats.
Voter Intensity is Everything Going Forward: We aren’t at the end the road in the Democratic primary, but the end isn’t too far away. Voter intensity will be critical in the next round of primary states for any candidate that hopes to make it to the convention. Biden and Sanders cannot afford to have an off night in the big states ahead and need their voters to turn out and aggressively work to win these upcoming states. Biden supporters thinking that momentum alone will carry him over the finish line are wrong. Sanders supporters that believe Super Tuesday was an anomaly and that their candidate is well positioned in the states ahead are also wrong. This is a close race and both sides will need to increase voter intensity to win.
The only thing that can be fairly predicted 244 days out from an election is that there is not much we can reasonably predict. Super Tuesday proved that. The weeks and months ahead will do the same. We now know the candidates that are most likely to win the nomination, but the road to get there and the results along the way is anyone’s guess at this point.